Monday, September 29, 2014

Wasteland 2 Review!

In 1988 Wasteland was released and was the game to bring a new setting to the genre as it was the first post apocalyptic RPG. Wasteland is like a sacred game for the old school gamers and a sequel was something that everyone wanted. The game did receive numerous spiritual successors one of which is Fountain of Dreams in 1990 and also Wasteland is considered the father of the Fallout series which started in 1997.
More than twenty five years have passed since the release of Wasteland, but the waiting is over, the sequel is finally here!

               In April 2012 inXile launched a Wasteland 2 crowdfunding campaign which became one of the first video games to raise a big sum through Kickstarter (after Broken World’s success), setting a precedent for the future RPGs. The campaign rose more than three times over the initial goal, ending up with over 3 million dollars to be used for development. On top of this, the game hit Early Access and the money gained from selling on Steam were also used in development.
               Many of the team members of Wasteland and Fallout 1 & 2 were assembled to work on this project, including Chris Avellone and the composer Mark Morgan. Brian Fargo, the CEO of inXile and director of the project, kept a close connection with the community, posting screenshots and asking for opinions which helped shape some of the visual features of the game.
               In September 2014 the game was launched after a delay of almost a year and with more than nine months of Early Access on Steam.
               The Wasteland action takes place in 2087 in an alternate timeline where the world has been ravaged by a global nuclear war that took place in 1998. Some remnants of the US Army have found refuge during the war in a prison in Arizona and over the time they became the Desert Rangers, a military group set on helping and defending the survivors of the war in the area.
The story of Wasteland 2 is set 15 years after the events of the first game. The player’s characters start in front of the Ranger Citadel as freshly recruited desert rangers part of Echo Team and attend the funeral of one of the veterans by the name of Ace. After the funeral, the player’s team is tasked by General Vargas, the leader of the rangers, with the investigation of Ace’s death and of a strange radio signal which speaks of “man and machine becoming one”.
After inspecting the radio tower area where Ace was killed, Echo team receives two distress calls through the radio from two different locations which have serious problem. The players have to choose between helping Ag Center an agriculture area attacked by mutated plants and animals or Highpool a small settlement at the top of a dam which provides water in the region and is now attacked by bandits. It is up to the players to choose who to help and the decision taken will affect the gameplay and evolution of the story. The Rangers will face numerous problems everywhere they go and have to make decisions that will have an impact on the area, but that doesn't mean you can’t be a coward or an ignorant and just walk away (they should revoke your badge for this!). 
On their way through the Arizona wastelands, Echo team will face all kind of people, some eager to help and others trying their best to stop them. Some of the wasteland’s inhabitants even want to join the ranks of Desert Rangers and they could prove as valuable help in the quest for law, order and justice in the area (the propaganda!). While none of the characters that join your group engage you in conversation during the game, each has their own personality and backgrounds and these can be seen throughout the game as they comment the events they assist at or exchange dialogues with people they know.
When the strange radio signals have been traced, the player’s team will leave behind Arizona in a state they dictated by their actions and travel to California to the city of Los Angeles where new challenges await them.
Wasteland 2 does its best to depict a world that is not colored in black and white by putting a great accent on choices and giving players a lot of liberty in the way they want to solve any situations they come across. The missions and the choices are not the only things that set the story and atmosphere of this game. The world of the game opens up for those who care to see the carefully placed details, your characters’ observations about what they see are notified in the text UI (a typewriter) and some of the things can be seen only if you pay attention.
Oldest job in the world still kicking!

The radio is not used only to communicate with the ranger’s leaders about missions but it is also a big part of the story telling as it captures all kinds of frequencies and allows you to hear what others have to say. Some of the things you hear on the radio build up the story and help you form an impression about certain conflicts and problems.
The story relates a lot with Wasteland (which I didn’t play), bringing back areas like Darwin City, Ag Center, Highpool or Rail Nomads Camp and many important characters from the first game like Snake Vargas, Angela Deth, Thrasher and many others. However, newcomers should not worry, because the game does a good job (for those who care to find out) at explaining the story and presenting the characters so that everyone is up to speed with what’s going on in this world.
I wonder who's responsible for this?!

The gameplay of Wasteland 2 is based on storytelling and dialogues, having a novel like design, but it is also based on tactical combat, finding secrets, exploration and not to forget humor (so much of it!).
The amount of text and dialogue in this game is overwhelming and skipping any of it would be insulting to the game because it is a big part of the gameplay experience and a lot of effort has been put into it. The dialogue system is interesting and fun, while talking to an NPC certain words that have relevance for the rangers will be highlighted (like tags) and will become available as new dialogues with that NPC. There are also skill check dialogues which allow solving a certain conversation with the help of some of the three talking skills in the game (smart-bad-kick ass). Last but not least, there are decisions that can be made through dialogues, at the players’ will, which pushes the conversation or action through the desired direction.
The dialogues system in Wasteland 2 is interesting with well written text and full of humor, but for a game of this caliber I would have preferred a system like the ones used in Fallout 1, 2 and Planescape Torment, which allows the players to dictate the personality of their characters through the dialogue choices they make.
This guy puts my i5 to shame!

The world of Wasteland 2 is separated in two different areas, Arizona and Los Angeles. Both maps are huge and offer a large number of areas to explore and secrets to find. The game has a map travel system which allows players to travel to set locations or discover new ones by exploration, there are many hidden areas and secrets to be discovered and exploration is indicated because it represents a big part of the game. Moving to any set point on the world map requires water which is a resource that you can deplete, finding oases to refill your canteens is important, otherwise your party might die of dehydration. Another important factor is radiation which can cause severe damage if moving through it without a suit.
While traveling on the map, random encounters can occur, which can be either finding a friendly vendor or running into some foes. The combat encounters can be skipped with the help of the outdoorsman skill.
A little radiation can't stop my team!

               The game takes advantage of the isometric camera and uses a tactical turn based combat system with action points (like many traditional RPGs) with destructible cover and a lot of vertical action. Characters can take cover behind objects, crouch for better aiming and higher chance to avoid being hit, aim for the head or even wait behind a corner to ambush advancing the enemies. Strategy and proper target picking are required as well as a good combination of weapons, because this game is extremely hard (I played it on Ranger difficulty) and some of the encounters will test your team to the limits.
There is a large variety of enemies in this game, from raiders to mutated wild life, robots, synthetics and many more and to deal with all these problems, players have an entire arsenal at their disposal (progressively). From melee weapons like blades and hammers to the standard shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles and RPGs or even energy weapons, all in different forms with different attributes and fire modes in such a way that there is a weapon for every situation. Most of the weapons in the game are upgradeable so their performance can be enhanced to be even better suited for a certain type of combat.
Guns! Lots of guns!
He doesn't look friendly.

While all of these are good features, the combat system has some serious issues. The AI sometimes acts crazy and makes no sense, enemies can shoot through some of the walls, weapons jam in a single fight multiple times even if they have a chance of 2-3% of doing that, the pathfinder gets your characters stuck and fighting in a door proves an impossible task as your characters sometimes refuse to pass or shoot the enemies in the next room. But probably the most frustrating thing that puts the combat in a bad light is the fact that there is no party formation and because of that you get caught on the wrong foot in combat with your snipers in front and your melee and shotgun users behind.
Positioning is everything.
Good luck with this fight!

               The skills system used in the game is as basic as you can get, being split in attributes and skills. Attributes points are gained one every ten levels and they directly affect characters’ combat or general stats by increasing chance to hit or critical hit, health, carry weight, initiative, action points and many other. Charisma also has an impact on recruiting new members to your ranger’s team.
The skills are spread into three different categories and are what you need to properly use or upgrade a weapon, fix broken things, open a locked safe or a door, offer medical treatment to your party or any strangers you find in need of medical attention, talk your way in or out from certain situations, crack walls, disarm alarms and traps and even “talk” with animals.
               The game choices system doesn't stop with the story and is used even in the way you put your characters skills to work. You find a strong door that you can’t open maybe you blow it up with a rocket, but why not test your lockpicking skill and maybe enter in an old fashion way, if not you might want to check the surrounding area because there might be a wall that you can kick down using your brute force. These kinds of situations are everywhere in the game and you can adjust to them based on your team skills. (Tips: don’t ignore the repair toasters skill!)
               While leveling my characters I felt a dire need for a perks system like the one seen in the old Fallout games, which allowed your characters to be more specialized in what they were doing and made leveling a character way more interesting and exciting. In Wasteland 2 with enough points spent in intellect (which increased the number of skill points gained per level) you can easily specialize your characters in three to four different skills and by the end of the game you can have access to absolutely everything, a game design decision which I think affects replayability in a negative way.
The power of intelligence.

               All the things you need to know about your characters, the dialogues and characters remarks, the inventory and the combat commands are put together in a responsive and easy to navigate UI that fits perfectly with the whole game.
               Wasteland 2 was created using Unity engine, a powerful graphic engine which is very popular between small studios that don’t have the resources for an in-house one. Despite the amazing level design and attention to every detail on the map, Wasteland 2 graphics are far from today’s standards with many washed up textures, low quality models and lack of graphical effects. It’s a shame, because inXile had the engine to make this game look absolutely amazing (not like graphics are the most important thing in this kind of RPGs).
Even so, Wasteland 2 has a clean and pleasant look and uses a color pallet that fits the world and atmosphere really well (colors saturation can be changed).
LA looks better than Arizona.

               The music of the game was composed by Mark Morgan, a composer well known by RPG enthusiasts for his work in Fallout 1, 2, NV and Planescape Torment. The ambient music is beautiful and well picked reflecting the situation of each zone.
               The curse of any RPG from the past that focused on complexity (Fallout 1, 2, PST, I keep mentioning these games a lot) follows Wasteland 2 as well (not a big surprise). The game is riddled with all kind of problems. There are many quests and dialogue bugs that can stop you from progressing in missions, especially in the second half of the game. By the time I started the Hollywood area, I was creating a new save(besides quicksaves and autosaves) every half hour and I was carefully advancing step by step and this still didn't help me (beware of Hollywood is the land of the heathen quests).
Besides the expected questing bugs, which are hard to avoid in a game with so much dialogue and multiple choices, many players have been complaining of frequent crashes and in some of the areas the fps is questionably low. I had to play the game with horrible screen tearing because the v-sync refused to work no matter what I did (apparently common for nvidia users).
               But I was prepared for this and I tolerated all these problems, because I wasn't expecting a perfect game on the technical part and most of these issues will be fixed in the months to come. What I expected from Wasteland 2 was a captivating game and considering it kept me hooked for the 81 hours that I needed to finish it, with more than 40 hours in three days.
Bros before ...
I'm so glad I can't open this!

               Wasteland 2 was a complete RPG experience offering an interesting story, great post-apocalyptical atmosphere, huge (HUGE!) attention to details, enough quality text to fit in two books, choices that don’t succumb to the right and wrong system, challenging combat, lots of humor and enough bugs to keep my frustration level high.
I enjoyed the time spent with this game and I plan on replaying it after it receives some more fixes so I can find out what could have happened if my choices were different.
               Wasteland 2 is the closest game to original Fallout series that I got to play since Interplay sold the rights to their franchise. Is a true labor of love and this shows in almost every aspect of the game and this game should have real chances for a GoTY 2014 award.
I hope inXile will start developing more RPGs in the close future and i can’t wait to see how Planescape: Tides of Numenera will turn out, which is currently under development.

+ Huge attention to details
+ The choices system
+ Great atmosphere, capturing the magic of old school RPGs
+ Great itemization, with lots of weapons, armors and funny items
+ So much great written text could make books envy it
+ The story
+ Thematic UI
+ 80+ hours of gameplay
+ Large variety of enemies
+ Many factions, each with different traditions, goals and problems
+ High difficulty
+ The radio

- Basic skills system
- Pathfinder and AI problems
- Combat system lacks some important mechanics
- Average graphics
- Various technical issues and bugs
- (Subjective) I would have preferred a more interactive dialogue system in which the personality of my character(s) could be reflected


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Screenshot of the Week #5: Creepy Beauty!

             This weekend I managed to finish Wasteland 2 after 81 hours of full RPG pleasure. I’m planning to go for another playthrough, but I'm going to wait for the game to receive some more updates since it has lots of issues that need to be fixed.
             So I turned to the next game on my list, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, which was released this month on 19. I was expecting a thrilling and creepy adventure from this game set in a beautiful looking world and it actually delivered, all with just one problem (I'm not counting the fact that I consider the ending predictable). The game is so short and by the time you are fully caught in the atmosphere and story you find out that you have finished it. It took me three hours to end this game and I believe I've done everything possible in it and I paid attention to every detail in my path.
For some players a game with three hours of gameplay might be too little for a title with a price tag of 18.99, but I don’t think this was the issue for me. My problem with the game is that I wanted more, I wish this was just an episode and there were more to come.
One thing is sure with The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, is one of the most beautiful games I have ever played and the attention for graphical details is remarkable. I made so many screenshots, I don’t even know which one to pick!
Is it wrong if I find this beautiful?!

                I’m working on the reviews for Wasteland 2 and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and I’ll probably post them in the following weeks.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Follow the Game Slashers on Steam!

Valve has released this week the Discovery update for Steam. The new update offers a smarter Home page for each user with personalized recommendations based on the games played, reviews from other users and with many customizable areas. A discovery Queue is now available on the front page which offers a faster way to check for new releases or top selling games.The search engine has been improved with better filters and together with the search auto complete makes finding games a lot easier.
            The most important feature (for me) from this update and the reason I wrote this short article is the Steam Curators, which allows individual users or organizations to publish reviews and recommendation on Steam. Curators can be followed by users in order to check their latest activity. This is a great promotion tool and I used this opportunity to create a Game Slashers Group on Steam and create a Game Slashers Curator to help me spread the word about my blog.
             I will put the links to my group and Curator down below. Feel free to join my group and follow my Curator for an easier way to receive updates about this blog and discuss about games in general. The expansion of this group it will help me a lot with some of my (possible) future plans.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Screenshot of the Week #4: Words of Wisdom!

This Friday were released two of the most anticipated games for me. Endless Legend and the long awaited Wasteland 2 are now out of their Early Access!
I was anxiously waiting for the Wasteland 2 release and was happy that no other game that I want is coming in the same week. I was caught off guard by Endless Legend release as I didn't follow this month’s progress updates from developers and I had no clue was coming in the same day.
              Despite promising myself that I will dedicate most of my weekend to Wasteland 2, I gave into temptation and played a little of what looks like one of the most complete 4X Strategies released in a while. AMPLITUDE Studios did a very good job with their new title. The game graphics and art style are out of this world, while the gameplay is complex and captivating. Endless Legend will keep many strategy enthusiasts tied to their PCs. But even so, post apocalyptical old school style RPGs are the bread and butter for me. It was a little hard to choose from these two games but I ended up spending my weekend the way I wanted initially: by playing Wasteland 2.
              I captured a large amount of images from my latest gaming adventures, each screenshot being interesting in its own way. Humor, secrets and Easter-eggs are an important part of Wasteland 2.
This week’s screenshot has a little from all those things:
In this world, their will to launch nuclear rockets was unstoppable...
              Wasteland 2 is a huge game, but when I'm done with it, I'm going to write an in-depth review to say my opinion about the game that looks like the spiritual successor of Fallout 2.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Screenshot of the Week #3: Go with the crowd!

I tend to play at least one MMO(RPG) at a time, but lately there was no game from the genre that could catch my full attention. With the release of Guild Wars 2 Feature Pack this week, I returned to the game to test up some of the new features.
Guild Wars 2 has progressed a lot since release (without a monthly fee), with new content updates in the form of Living Story episodes, new items and all kind of events and other interesting features. There is a lot to do in the game, despite not having a traditional MMORPG end-game.
This September Feature Pack enhanced the leveling experience to be more helpful for new players, revamped the trading post UI, added new achievements and many more. For a player like me who played Guild Wars 2 for a long time and has some certain expectations (where is the sPvP ranking system?!), this changes are not enough to keep me playing continuously. But hardcore players and the newcomers will enjoy the new features and will definitely improve their gameplay experience.

One thing I can say for sure about Guild Wars 2, even after all this time, World vs World is as fun, frustrating, laggy (this word doesn’t do justice to the slideshow fest that can happen in WvW) and full of zerging as always!
Strength in numbers!!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Divinity: Original Sin Review!

The Divinity franchise is probably the most spread throughout the video games genre. The series started in 2002 with Divine Divinity, which was an isometric RPG and continued with Beyond Divinity which was a spin-off to the original game. The story of the series was continued in Divinity II: Ego Draconis and the expansion Flames of Vengeance which are action RPG games. In 2013 another spin-off was released in the series, Divinity: Dragon Commander, a game combining RTS with RPG elements and with competitive multiplayer and co-op mode.
Larian Studios managed to bring the Divinity series on the screen in different ways and none of these games were disappointing, but ever since the launch of the original game, Divine Divinity remains the best in the series. Or I should say, it was the best in the series up until now…

On 27 May 2013 a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign was started by Larian Studios aiming for additional content in an already in-development title. The campaign was a success, raising over 1.000.000 dollars out of the initial goal of 400.000 dollars.
After the crowdfunding, Divinity: Original Sin went to an entire adventure of release dates and postponing. The game was expected to be released in the autumn of 2013, but was delayed to 28 February 2014 later on to be delayed for 20th June of the same year and ending up to be released on 30 June 2014 (that was quite a ride!).
Divinity: Original Sin is a prequel to Divine Divinity. The story follows the actions of two source hunters who came to the city Cyseal to investigate the mysterious murder of the city councilor. Source hunters are specially trained warriors who follow in the footsteps of sourcerers (source mages) in order to stop them from using this tainted and powerful form of magic.
As the investigation of the murder progresses our two heroes unveil a sinister plan that is going to unleash terrible things over Rivellon (the world in which the Divinity franchise is set) and are forced to move forward and fight against this power that is threatening the world. In their journey the two champions discover a secret about their existence which makes them understand why they are in the middle of this mess.
                The action of the game takes place in four distinct (huge) areas that can easily be traversed through a system of portals. Each area is well developed and has its own story, art style, quests and many other things that will make the players feel like they are in a unique place. The exploration feeling in this game is enhanced by one of the best pathfinders I have ever seen. Party members are able to find the shortest way to the target location and avoid dangerous terrain on their way to the set location.
Besides the two main characters, two NPCs can be recruited in the game who have their own personality, interests and background story.
                I would like to emphasize (with sorrow) that the story in Divinity: Original Sin is probably the weakest point of the game, being nothing more than a generic tale that can’t even surprise the younger players of the RPG genre. The lack of choices which affect how the story unfolds makes the players feel like they have no impact in the game. There are no memorable characters, your party members are really annoying and they don’t make you feel any attachment to them.

The dialogue system in the game is well done and quite unique. Besides the standard dialogues between party members as reactions to the game story which is something common in good RPGs, Divinity: Original Sin has separate dialogues for the main characters. These dialogues are meant to help the players in taking difficult decisions in the game by adding an arguing element between the main heroes. The heroes can try to convince each why their action is the best to take in a certain situation and if they can’t come to an agreement a small game of rock, paper, scissor will take place (that’s right!) to decide the winner of the argument. The arguments of the hero character not controlled by the player are based on the personality that was chosen when that particular character was created.
The heroes’ dialogue system was designed with Co-op in mind, to make players argue between themselves, but I can say it is quite interesting (and annoying at times) to see something like this in singleplayer as well.
This can turn into a total mind game in Coop games!

Divinity offers eleven classes to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. These classes can be customized as players think it fits their play style. There are enough abilities, traits and spells to choose from in order to create unique builds. There are enough random generated items in game to equip characters the way players want and if someone is unlucky with drops, crafting is always a viable option. I find myself forced to say that the random item drops from monsters was not the best idea, at first I thought it might help replayability, but as I played the game more I found it annoying that I was depending on luck to get some better gear and it affected my experience in a negative way. Even if there are some unique items in the game that drop from certain bosses, those drops are affected by luck.
Enough skills to choose from.
Some of the items are quite cool.

               The combat system of the game is one of the best I have ever seen in an RPG. Divinity: Original Sin uses a turn based tactical combat with an action points system. Action points are spent in combat in order to move, attack and use abilities or items, the number of points a character has can be increased through various stats or items. At the end of the player’s turn the action points that were not spent are saved for the next turn, this opens up multiple possibilities, since you can save more points for a stronger attack in a future turn.
The synergy between the turn based combat, character skills and environment is absolutely amazing. Spells can be combined for an increased effect, e.g. players can cast a rain spell on the enemies an after that cast a cold spell and those enemies will freeze or if you combo with a lightning spell those enemies will be electrocuted with a chance to stun them. There are so many spell combos in the game and these combos are suitable for any kind of play style. Besides the combos between spells, players can also use the environment to their advantage by dropping boxes on the enemies’ head or throwing barrels of oil that can be ignited afterwards.
               The difficulty level in the first half and close to the end of the game is very high and this forces the players to use all kind of abstract and ingenious tactics in order to overcome the enemies in battle. I had to improvise multiple times throughout the game in order to have a chance in some fights. I was engaged into a battle (on the hardest difficulty) with a boss that was a higher level than my party and because of the crazy tactics I used I ended up winning (one hour later) and this was a very satisfactory experience.
Water and lightning, the combination that helped me beat act one.
Arachnophobia hell!
                The Divinity gameplay experience is at one of the highest levels. With a good dialogues, a combat system that always leaves you wanting more fights, a huge world to explore riddled with puzzles (good luck with those!) and a story in a continuous development, you won’t have time to take a breath in this game.
                On the technical part the game stands quite well, considering the budget it had for development. The graphics are crisp, colorful and with some impressive effects. On top of this, the engine managed to deliver four distinct looking areas in full details. There are still some washed up ground textures or some models that could use some more details, that some players that are more focused on graphical fidelity will find annoying, but the overall look of the game is pleasing.
The game does come with an editor included, which gives players the opportunity to change the world of Rivellon to their liking.
Stifling atmosphere.

                Divinity: Original Sin delivered one of the best audio experiences of this year. The music is godly and is so well used for each situation in the game. The sound effects are well done and in combination with the music they reflect the atmosphere of each area in the game. But as expected by anyone who followed this title’s progress, the game has no proper voice acting and in this day and age the lack of voice acting can be considered a big minus by many.
                The game doesn’t escape the curse of isometric RPGs and has some problems. The most annoying problem people encountered in the game is the corruption of save files which messes up player’s progress.
Some issues which I found very frustrating were the UI navigation and inventory sorting, but as today these problems have been fixed.
                I think the biggest problem with this game is the fact that it didn’t fully deliver what it promised in the Kickstarter campaign. This might not affect all players in the same way, as those who bought the game at release might not be aware of every feature this game should have. But as a Kickstarter backer I found it very disappointing that the developers didn’t deliver the day-night cycle which should have affected the AI and the way some spells work. Another thing that wasn’t added is the end-game dungeon that should have been in the last map of the game, which based on the amount of Kickstarter backers, should have had ten distinct levels (1 level for 1000 backers). Before I found out from the internet that this dungeon will not be present in the game, I was so excited to experience this difficult area and search every corner on the map in order to find it. You can imagine that finding out that the dungeon is not really in the game made my lust for the game drop immensely.
I do understand why the developers didn’t manage to do everything they promised. A working day-night cycle implies a huge amount of work in order to get the entire world to adjust to the different times of the day. But I find it odd that the dungeon was nowhere to find, as in August 2013 it was showcased on Larian Studio’s youtube channel (hopefully it will be added in the future).
On an ending note, I have to say that Divinity: Original Sin is one of the best games I played this year and one of the brighter RPGs in the last couple of years. With a campaign over seventy hours long, an absolutely amazing combat system, a keen attention to details, a beautiful world and Co-op, the game sticks out from the ocean of mediocrity in which RPGs have been lately.
I recommend this game to any RPG enthusiast, you won’t be disappointed (especially if you didn’t take part in the Kickstarter campaign and if you can overlook some of the writing flaws). And I look forward to an expansion.

+ 70+ hours of gameplay
+ Impressive tactical combat
+ Combos between spells
+ Good character progression
+ Artistic and colorful graphics
+ Beautiful music
+ Co-op mode with an interesting dialogue system
+ Map editor
+ Good pathfinder

- The story is not on the same quality level with the rest of the game
- Doesn’t deliver the entire content promised in the Kickstarter campaign
- Random itemization negatively affects replayability
- Some of the fights can go on for too long
- Problems with the save system and other annoying bugs
- Average production value
- Hard to navigate UI (at release)


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Screenshot of the Week #2: Commencing Artillery Barrage!

I’m continuing my grinding adventure in Diablo 3 RoS after 2.1.0 patch, trying as hard as possible to get the two items I’m missing (Kridershot and Tasker’s). During this week play time I did find a lot of funny moments in the game but most of them are hard to capture in a screenshot.
Demon hunters are quite powerful at the moment (after how this class did since the game was released, I never thought I would say this) and because is powerful the class became quite popular with the latest patch (what a surprise!). But despite being strong, a party of demon hunters using the same build (the only one working) in Greater Rifts is something hilarious to watch when is in combat.
 Currently sentries are the new whirlwind in Diablo. You can see in this screenshot fifteen sentries ravaging the enemies in a Greater Rift and also making every other effect on the screen impossible to see.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Best female characters in video games Part IV

Kreia / Darth Traya – Knights of the Old Republic II

             Kreia is a human female Sith Lord part of the Sith Triumvirate, an alliance formed by the last powerful Sith Lords of Darth Revan’s empire.
Before the war she was a Jedi Master that was exiled by the Jedi Council because her students followed her former apprentice, Revan, into invading the Mandalorians. In exile she turned to the dark side and became a Sith Lord and searched the force for those who could become her apprentices, she found Darth Sion and Darth Nihilus with which she later on formed the Sith Triumvirate and used this alliance to destroy the remaining Jedis.
Her two allies betrayed her and stripped her from the Force. Being thrown away by Jedis and Sith, Kreia started to think that the Force is using everyone and came with the idea to destroy its influence from the galaxy.
As she searched for someone who would have the power to help her do something like this she found the main character (a female named Zurik in the canon version) and went on a mission to save this person. Kreia started to influence the main character as they traveled together in the galaxy at the board of Ebon Hawk ship. She helped the main character locate the remaining Jedi Masters and as the main character reached them she showed her true identity and killed the remaining Jedis betraying her companion.
Kreia is an amazingly written character as she manages to fool the player the whole time in his first play through. Her calm and soothing voice and her teaching and what seem like good advices keep the player away from the truth the whole time. It is quite a shock when she shows her true nature, as by that time most of the players got attached to her as a character and as an important member of their crew.
Her manipulation of the main character puts her in a great position to finish her devious and evil plan. It’s up to the player to change the course of the history and is in the interest of both, dark and light side of the force, to stop Darth Traya from reaching her true goal.
Kreia lost her eyesight due to the lack of use of her eyes because she overused meditation in order to find the mysteries of the galaxy, but her close connection to the Force allowed her to see with the help of it. As a member of the Ebon Hawk crew, she wore simple Jedi robes and a double-blade lightsaber.
 Kreia is one of the best characters ever seen in a video game and Obsidian proved everyone wrong when they thought the second installment of the game won’t have a twist at the level of the one seen in the original game.
Kreia, the member of my crew that I trusted.

Darth Traya!

Morrigan – Dragon Age: Origins

Morrigan is my favorite female character in all the video games I have ever played. Beautiful, mysterious, powerful, heartless at the first glimpse and with an attitude full of contempt, Morrigan is like a flower that opens up only if you carefully attend to her. Written by David Gaider and brought to life by the amazing voice of Claudia Black, Morrigan is the most impressive character in Dragon Age: Origins and probably David Gaider’s best work since Viconia.
Morrigan was raised in the swamps of Ferelden by Flemeth, a witch of the wilds, and was taught to become a witch herself, learning powerful magic and the ability to shape shift into different animals. Cut from the rest of civilization, Morrigan grew up as a cold and distant woman, following her own interests and those of her mother in the search for greater powers. The contact with the Grey Warden might have been something she never predicted and was not ready for, allowing her to feel emotions she never felt before, emotions that she considered a weakness.
             It takes a huge amount of time to find out something about this character and all the effort put into this makes you, without your knowledge, start loving her. The sad part is that when you thought you can finally understand her, she turns your whole world upside down than vanishes without a trace, all that is left is a ring from her which makes you feel one time that she’s thinking about you and feels sorry that she left. This caused fans to go berserk on Bioware forums (including myself!), yelling for closure for the romance/story between Morrigan and the Grey Warden.
Witch Hunt DLC provides the closure for the story, in a cash grab way, with a plot and interaction between characters that is not even close to what we have seen in the original game. It is gratifying that her contribution to the story of the game is not over yet even after this DLC.
Morrigan will make a return in Dragon Age 3 as a support character for the main hero, by the looks of it from trailers, and because of this I’m so excited about the game (trying to forget the DA2 total disappointment). Hopefully Dragon Age 3 will provide a better story for Morrigan than her DLC did and this will make us understand her true reasons for her actions at the end of the first game.
Morrigan and her devious mother.

Not always expressing hate.

Sarah Louise Kerrigan / Queen of Blades – Starcraft Franchise

Sarah Louis Kerrigan by her human name or the Queen of Blades by her Zerg name is one of the main protagonists/antagonists of the Starcraft series and probably the most complex character seen in a strategy game.
As Sarah Kerrigan she is a sweet looking girl with red hair and green eyes and the power to read anyone’s mind or kill in an instant. As Queen of Blades she has spikes instead of hair, greenish skin covered with a protecting organic armor and wings which look like blades, her power is unmatchable and her mind allows to fully control the Zerg race.
Kerrigan’s story is a tragic one. When she was a young girl she discovered by accident that she has psionic powers killing her mother by mistake and putting her father into a vegetative state. Kerrigan was taken into custody by Confederate forces and became a subject for many of their experiments. In the end she was subdued to become their assassin as a Ghost special unit. She was rescued by Arcturus Mengsk and became one of the key members of the revolution against the Confederate leadership and Mengsk’s right hand. Then she met Jim Raynor and then things started to change, she became close to Raynor while getting further away from Mengsk as the men she thought she knew weren’t there anymore.
Because she opposed her leader in his insane decisions, Kerrigan paid the ultimate price and was abandoned on a planet invaded by Zerg, despite the desperate attempts from Raynor to save her. But instead of killing her, the Zergs saw the power she was holding and turned Kerrigan into one of their own and so the Queen of Blades was born. Filled with hate because of the betrayal, Kerrigan took advantage of the destruction of Zergs Overmind by Protoss forces and seized control over the Zerg race using it to exercise revenge over humanity and those that betrayed it. The human female that she used to be was no more, instead now she was a monster, killing billions of people and betraying everyone to reach her true goal.
During the events of Starcraft II, Kerrigan was turned back to human form and despite Raynor’s sacrifices and attempts to convince her to come back to a normal life, in the end she was overcome by hate and ran away to recover her lost powers and her status as the queen of Zergs.
 In her quest to reunite Zergs, now separated in small groups, Kerrigan understands the true meaning of her existence and after taking her revenge on Mengsk for betraying and turning her into a monster, with the help of human resistance forces and Jim Raynor, Sarah now more aware as a human but still possessing the powers of a Zerg queen goes into the depths of the space to face the enemy of all life.
Sarah Kerrigan is always at the extremities of morality, she’s either trying to do the right thing or is a monster that kills everything standing in her away. It’s hard to blame someone like her who suffered from the beginning of her life, who from the day her powers were discovered never had a moment to rest.
It’s obvious that Kerrigan is modeled by the men in her life, Mengsk and Raynor being the strongest molds and opposite to one another, as one drags her deep into darkness the other one tries to bring hope back to her.
In the end, despite all the horrible things she did, sometimes not being aware as a human being, Kerrigan redeems herself by ending Mengsk’s dictatorship over humanity and going to fight the Fallen One together with her Zergs.
Kerrigan’s / The Queen of Blades’ story has not been concluded yet and despite being at a lower quality in Starcraft II compared to the original games I’m still excited to find out what role she will play in the the upcoming expansion.
The best ghost ever trained.

The Queen of Blades!

Half human half zerg.

This is the list of what I consider the best female characters from all the video games I’ve played. These characters don’t stand out just because most of them are “sex symbols”, but because they are skillful, courageous, strong, dedicated and their story helps their development in players’ eyes. It is worth mentioning that some of these characters have received a massive development outside the video games area, through books, comics and other kinds of media.
There are many other females that might be as good as the ones I mentioned, but these are my favorites and the games in which they appear worth playing.